"For those that live in the shadows of life, those who are the least among us, I will not accept the fact that the most vulnerable in our state should be ignored. We can help them. And I want all of you to think about this."
Expanding Medicaid will also benefit many non-elderly veterans who are uninsured and can't or won't use health care from the Veteran's Administration. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute recently released an issue brief that found that this was true of about one in 10 non-elderly veterans. This would mean about 11,000 in West Virginia alone.
Of these, "Nearly half of the uninsured veterans (48.8 percent) have income levels below 138 percent of the FPL [federal poverty level] and thus would be eligible for expanded Medicaid under the ACA."
Stepping up for those who have sacrificed so much is one way of distinguishing deep patriotism from cheap patriotism.
In the event that none of those other reasons resonate, there is also the bottom line. Expanding Medicaid would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to West Virginia and would have a huge direct and indirect effect.
According to a new report jointly released by Families USA and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, if Medicaid expansion is enacted in 2014, by 2016 the influx of money would create around 6,200 new jobs, not just in the health-care sector, and would generate around $664 million in economic activity. All of this would help generate sales and income tax revenue for the state.
Expanding coverage would also reduce the cost of providing uncompensated care to the uninsured, some of which gets passed on to state and local governments. Medicaid expansion would result in $281 million in savings for the state from 2013 to 2022.
Hospitals would also realize savings as the cost of uncompensated care drops. In 2010, for example, West Virginia hospitals had to absorb $279 million in costs due to caring for low-income people who were uninsured. These costs also get passed on to consumers, which in 2008 raised family health insurance premiums by over $1,000.
In a word, reducing the number of uninsured West Virginians would lower costs to the state, to health-care providers and to those with private coverage.
Finally, expanding coverage for working people will mean healthier, happier and more productive lives for the people who live here.
Whether you look at it with head, heart, soul, or calculator, expanding coverage makes sense.
Wilson is director of the American Friends Service Committee's West Virginia Economic Justice Project and a Gazette contributing columnist.